What do you get when you combine a fierce rivalry, two high scoring offenses and the pressure of the postseason?
A wildly entertaining playoff volleyball matchup.
“When Clovis and Clovis West play volleyball, the smallest things can make the biggest difference,” said Clovis head coach Richard Lake.
Nothing seemed small about Tuesday night’s match.
The longtime rivals faced off with their seasons on the line. The Clovis West gym was packed with red and blue, creating an electric atmosphere in what would be the Golden Eagles’ last home volleyball game of the season.
As they had done so many times this season, these Eagles defended their home nest – and in the process knocked off the Cougars.
In the Central Section quarterfinal round Tuesday, Clovis West got off to a hot start and held on to defeat the Clovis Cougars in four sets, 25-21, 19-25, 25-15 and 25-18.
The Golden Eagles held a comfortable lead for most of the first set, only letting their lead get as small as 19-17, before star junior Momo Hebert led a late Clovis West charge to take the set, 25-21.
The second set saw Clovis take advantage of multiple unforced Clovis West errors. The costly mistakes allowed the Cougars to pull away mid-set and tie the match at a set apiece, 25-19.
Clovis West head coach Rhonda DeRuiter saw these errors as an issue throughout the match, yet shared a unique view about them.
“We are always going to make errors, because that’s volleyball,” DeRuiter said.“The girls do need the freedom to make aggressive errors though, because that’s the style we want them to play.”
The aggressive Clovis West style was on full display in the third set, where the Golden Eagles relentlessly attacked the net and overwhelmed the Cougars’ front line. The end result was a Clovis West victory in the third set, 25-15.
Clovis’ Lake was disappointed with how the third set went for the Cougars after his girls won the second set convincingly.
“I thought we did a very good job controlling the match in the second set,” said Lake. “The hard thing about volleyball is that during those three minutes between breaks, the mojo can switch on you like it did to us in the third set.”
Clovis West had all the mojo in the fourth set, going on a 5-0 run to take a commanding lead mid-set, en route to a decisive fourth-set victory, 25-18.
“When Clovis West got on those runs, they were aggressive with the serve and it worked well,” Lake said. “They got us on our heels in the fourth set and put us out of system.”
Not only did Clovis West manage to knock Clovis out of system for most of the match, but they accomplished something sweeter: knocking the rival Cougars out of the playoffs.
Yet the Golden Eagles are not afforded much time to celebrate; the 39-3 Clovis North Broncos won their playoff match over Centennial Tuesday and awaits Clovis West Thursday in the Central Section semifinals. The Broncos swept the teams’ two regular season matchups by a combined score of six sets to two.